As the sun was setting over the Empire Polo Field on Saturday (April 18), Arizona rock band Calexico lulled an attentive audience at the Outdoor Theatre with a collection of dusty, county-tinged tunes while just a few hundred yards away, New York’s TV On The Radio bombarded the main stage crowd with their dense, blues-flavored post-rock grooves. But the second day of the tenth annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was really just hitting its stride, hinting at the big sets from M.I.A., Killers, Chemical Brothers then still to come in the non-stop night ahead.
The Indio, California festival’s middle day was, in many ways, a very different experience from its first. While Friday’s lineup relied on heritage artists like Paul McCartney, Morrissey and Leonard Cohen to provide its wow factor, Saturday’s schedule was all about newer blood. Making their second Coachella visit, headliners the Killers may not have the legacy of McCartney or the Cure (who close out the festival Sunday), but the band held its own on Coachella’s main stage and slayed the packed audience with a pop-perfect set of upbeat dance-rock from their trio of albums.
Still, the Vegas band was overshadowed by M.I.A.’s spectacular set. Although she was only added to the festival a few weeks ago (serving as a last-minute replacement for Amy Winehouse, who cancelled her scheduled appearance in March due to legal and visa problems), the Sri Lankan-born Maya Arulpragasam brought bass, bravado, an army of dancers and staggering amounts of energy to her first main stage Coachella appearance.
Between the politically-charged party tunes — which included highlights like “Galang” and “Paper Planes” — M.I.A. also took time to comment on the mainstream success that has found her since her 2008 Coachella appearance. “Just ’cause I did the Grammys doesn’t mean I’ve gone all sold-out,” she told the crowd, the day-glow piping on her jean seams and sunglasses rims matching the Technicolor theme of her bright LED backdrops. Later, she boasted again as she playfully flipped the words to Winehouse’s “Rehab” in a not-so-subtle tribute; “They tried to make me do the Oscars,” she sang. “I said no, no, no.” Still, despite the frenzied success of her performance — which, at one point, found the singer surrounded by a couple hundred fans she summoned from the audience — M.I.A. was quick to point out that she wasn’t completely at ease with her promotion. “Next time, I’m back in the tent,” she said at the end of her set. “I prefer dealing with sweat.”
There was definitely plenty of late-night sweat to go around in the Sahara tent, thanks to pounding performances by Britain’s Chemical Brothers (making their fifth Coachella appearance), and Canadian electro-house team MSTRKRFT. Those seeking a more soothing audio experience flocked to Coachella’s side stage, the Outdoor Theatre, where the indie sounds of Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses wooed fans after dark. A varied collection of bands, ranging from Dresden Dolls diva Amanda Palmer and Rilo Kiley chanteuse Jenny Lewis to sludge-metalists Mastodon and trip-hop kingpins Thievery Corporation, entertained fans across Coachella’s five stages.
The tenth annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival concludes Sunday (April 19) with scheduled appearances by The Cure, who headline the main stage, My Bloody Valentine, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Public Enemy, Lupe Fiasco, Antony and the Johnsons, Peter Bjorn and John and 35 more artists.